Sixteen months in the making, Comcast's acquisition combines country's largest cable company with film and TV giant
Comcast has completed its $30 billion acquisition of NBC Universal, ending a long corporate odyssey that gives the country's largest cable provider control of an entertainment behemoth.
Comcast announced Saturday that the merger was completed Friday. It has 51 percent control of NBCU, with General Electric keeping 49 percent.
Both the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission approved the merger last week. The regulators included several conditions designed to ensure that Comcast doesn't discriminate against NBCU's rivals on its Internet and cable lines, and that it doesn't restrict rival cable and Internet providers' access to NBCU content.
Critics have worried about one company holding so much power over what Americans watch — and how they watch. But federal regulators who took more than a year to approve the deal believe they have conditions in place that will protect consumers — and the combined companies' rivals.
The shakeup before the acquisition's approval — and Comcast's naming of new NBCU leaders in November, before the deal was done — cost NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker and TV entertainment chief Jeff Gaspin, among others, their jobs.
“This transaction brings together the rich traditions of some of the world’s most well known and respected entertainment, news and sports brands at NBCUniversal with the technology and consumer reach of Comcast, creating the ideal entertainment and distribution company," Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts said in a statement Saturday.
Roberts and Burke welcomed their new employees Thursday by giving each of them 25 shares of stock, passes to Universal's theme parks, and a book describing their hopes for the future. They also established that they would call the company NBCUniversal, with no space or hyphen between the words — and the company unveiled a new logo (above).
"NBC Universal and Comcast are remarkable companies," Burke and Roberts said in a message to employees. "Together, we will be even better."
Critics are doubtful. Rep. Maxine Waters, a Los Angeles Democrat, said earlier this week that the terms federal regulators have imposed on the acquisition are "meaningless."
A study commissioned last year by the cable industry trade group the American Cable Association conluded that letting Comcast acquire NBCU would cost consumers at least $2.4 billion over the next nine years because of the new combined companies' "unrestrained pricing power."
Comcast said the analysis was flawed.